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Colonial home of Colonel Robert Palmer, Surveyor-General of North Carolina 1753-1771 and Collector of Customs for the Port of Bath. Built c. 1744, probably by Michael Coutanche, it is one of the oldest surviving dwelling-houses in the State. Governor William Tryon described Palmer’s home as “a very excellent house . . . at Bath which I often resided in with my family, being Hospitably entertained.” After Colonel Palmer left for England in 1771, his son lived in the house until the mid 1780’s. In the 19th Century it was the home of the Jonathan Marsh family, shipowners and merchants, originally from Rhode Island.
The twentieth century saw the house operated as a hotel and later an apartment building. The structure was greatly altered from its colonial grandeur during this period. After the house was purchased by the Beaufort County Historical Society, the Historic Bath Commission in 1959 undertook restoring the building to its colonial era appearance. It was dedicated as a feature in Historic Bath in May 1962. Historic Bath was designated as a state historic site one year later. The Palmer-Marsh house caught fire in December 1989, but what could have been a tragedy was turned to advantage by preservationists. The fire stripped off fifteen layers of exterior paint, so the original color of the house was discovered and restored. The original interior colors were also determined by paint chip analysis and, since a chair rail was detected in some rooms that did not have one, that feature was added, as well. Thus the house was more accurately restored than it was before the fire. It reopened to the public in June 1993 and remains an important attraction at Historic Bath.
Taylor Lewis and Joanne Young, The Hidden Treasure of Bath Town (1978)
Bath Historic Site web page:
(Raleigh) News and Observer, December 13, 1993
Alan D. Watson, Bath: The First Town in North Carolina (2005)